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Guide to computer security

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There probably aren’t many homes in the UK these days that don’t have a home computer and access to the internet. However, while many of us have no trouble shopping, emailing and banking online, few of us are actually clued-up when it comes to computer security.

It might sound boring but if you don’t know how to effectively secure your home computer you could be putting yourself, your finances and other personal data at risk.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a computer wiz to protect your PC, all you need are a few simple software programs that are available on your high street at minimal cost.

The following are a must-have for any home computer.   

1. Firewall

A firewall is a barrier between your computer and the rest of the internet, there to make sure you are as safe as you can be from hackers, worms, viruses and all the other nasty people and programs out there. At its simplest, a firewall stops anything you don’t know about passing between your computer and the internet. So, if you’re using the internet, only web-related data, like requests from your browser and pages from a server, should be moving back and forth. Some operating systems such as Windows XP already have a firewall installed.

2. Anti-spam

This type of software programme uses a combination of spam blocking and content filtering to stop your inbox filling up with emails from unknown senders, normally from companies trying to sell you something.

What is spam?

Spam is made up of unsolicited bulk emails with commercial content, sent to an indiscriminate list of people in order to advertise certain products or services.  

3. Anti-virus

This software attempt to identify or eliminate malicious software. The term “anti-virus” is used because the earliest examples were designed exclusively to combat computer viruses. Most current anti-virus software is designed to get the better of a wider range of threats.

What is a virus? In general terms, a virus is a tiny little computer program that has the built-in ability to copy itself from one location to another. Anti-virus software can now combat a range of threats, not just viruses.

Common computer threats:

Trojan horses are programs which pretend to do one thing, but in reality snoop out your personal data, or end up damaging it. These types conceal their identity or true intentions and are usually quite hard to detect.

Worms are programs which are able to replicate themselves over a computer network and in turn perform malicious actions. As a result it has the ability to affect other programmes on the computer.

Viruses are programs which are able to log into the personal files on a computer it has affected and as a result, can end up removing all of them. It can have serious side effects on a computer system.   

4. Anti-spyware

This software consists of a scanning engine that relies on signatures files (also known as definitions or fingerprints) to detect spyware and adware. Once a scan detects potentially harmful files, the anti-virus or anti-spyware software will either ask you how it should handle the detections or remove or quarantine them automatically.

What is Spyware? While “spyware” was originally a term used to describe software programs that collected and reported information when you were using your computer, today the word “spyware” is used as a broader term that describes computer programs that exhibit any number of unwanted behaviours, such as repeatedly changing your browser homepage or delivering pop-up advertisements.

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Guide to computer security

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